A step into the past

by Bob Urie

I had not been fully retired too long when I learned that CGC Mellon was now stationed in Seattle, just a ferry ride from where I now live. Mellon was my last duty station from which I retired Dec 1, 1976, it was then stationed in Hawaii. From the ferry terminal to the CG Base is a 15 minute walk. The Coast Guard Museum is at the entrance of the base. I stopped there to have a look and talked to the volunteer who was working it that day. I was looking for information for a project at my Vets club, FRA.

Because of my questions I was invited in to the office/file room. The fellow amazed me. I told him what I was looking for. Now mind you the file cabinets went full length of the wall (40ft?). He went to the bottom drawer of a cabinet two thirds the way across the room and pulled out some WWII photos showing the Coast Guards part in the Normandy invasion. Then moved to another drawer to get similar material from the Pacific Theatre.  

From there I went just across the road to the CGEX. I live in a Navy town and really wanted to get some kind of Coastie stuff to wear to the Navy Gym.    

While crossing the road I took note that Mellon was in. Well, I thought, I may as well have a look. I walked past Midgette and then the full length of the Mellon. My, what a lot of changes were made since my day. I spoke to the QM of the watch. Knowing it was still during working hours, I didn’t even expect to be escorted aboard. I talked to the QMC on the phone and he said I could come into the CPO Mess. The quarter deck watch snagged a shipmate and had them escort me to the Mess.




The QMC was a wonderful host, saying “If you were a member of this mess in the past, you are still a member of this mess.”  He took me to see the log office, where I worked, and engine room where I stood watches. We went through the chow line in the general mess but ate in the Chiefs mess. Several of the chiefs took a minute to chat with me but had to get back to their work. There were changes to the mess but not so much that it didn’t feel familiar to me. I am really glad I went aboard.

The changes, that I could see, were the weapons, (more numerous) enclosed antenna that were for purposes unknown to me. Navigation and firing control I suppose. The boats were those inflatable, hard bottom design, with outboards. They are launched with a fish davit with a single line that had quick disconnect fittings and hit the water manned and motor running. Faster, safer but I doubt they would carry as much.

I was told that Mellon and some other WHECs were in the yard undergoing a “life extension” program for over three years. Mellon was built in 68 I believe. It was in Nam in 70, according to the cruise book that was in the Chief’s mess. My word, I had not been aboard her in 26 years. What a reunion.

A few months later I made arrangements with a fellow that was aboard while I was. He was BMC. He now lives in Bellingham, WA. We had been talking about getting together. I told him of the tour I had and we agreed on a day and time to meet and go see the vessel together.

He drove directly to the Base, parked and walked up toward the ferry terminal to meet me. I was a little over half way to the Base. I recognized the Mellon hat this old guy was wearing. And he recognized mine that way too. We walked, talked and got to the Base mess at lunch time. We had a real nice lunch at the Base galley and went over to the Mellon. This time we went directly to the QM of the Watch and asked to be conducted to the Mess. We spent some time there in the Mess, I showed him the 1970 Crews Book. That was the year Mellon went to Nam. We were shown around a little. The crew was all polite and most of them had an odd little grin. No one had much time to talk because it was again during working hours. We were taken forward to take a look at the automated 5” gun and aft to see the Falinx. That’s that cool new gun that shoots and explodes incoming missiles. My BM buddy pointed out that it would be very difficult to tow any kind of a ship with that thing in the way.

On our way to the brow we ran into an officer who spoke to us and admitted that the crew got a kick out of having a couple of retired Coasties roaming about. Quarters had been held while we were in the mess, I guess they passed to word that we were old crewmen and quite harmless.

You know, 378s are the only High Endurance Cutters the Guard has left.

To walk those decks with an old shipmate after 26 years was really quite special. It occurred to us that very few of the crew were even born when we served aboard her. 


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